Monday, November 29, 2010

Most Honest Movie Title Ever

Last night I got to the multiplex and checked out Unstoppable, the Denzel Washington/Tony Scott film which might be considered a rough remake of Runaway Train (D. Andrei Konchalovski, 1985). In brief, it was very enjoyable. Tony Scott is a fine action director-- and this time, he managed to not include his typical frosting of jingoism and flag-waving. I'd even say Ol' Mr. Scott is growing a tiny bit of social consciousness.

But this entry is not really about Unstoppable: Its about the Most Honest Movie Title Ever, which I saw gracing a coming-soon one-sheet in a corridor. I had to stop and laugh at it, which sort of scared the other patrons in the immediate vicinity.

Just Go With It (2011) is a romantic comedy featuring Jennifer Aniston and Adam Sandler. It's about a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon (Sandler) who lies to women that he's unhappily married to get dates with them. But when he meets the girl of his dreams (Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker) he enlists the help of his office assistant (Aniston) to pose as his ex-wife. Hilarious situations and many romantic misunderstandings ensue.

In the course of one's everyday interactions, we all have to deal with deceptive little phrases. These are often meant to promote social ease (“Uncle Peter sure is a free spirit, isn't he?”) and maintain harmony (“Oh,it's okay: I was tired of that Hummel figurine anyway.”). But sometimes these little nuggets are pernicious and weasely.

“Just kidding” is my least favorite: You generally hear it uttered by someone who has been been caught red-handed saying something awful, usually about you, and it literally means “I was not kidding at all.”

“Be cool” is another one I used to have to deal with back in my management days. It was usually uttered by some dopey kid doing something dangerous or illegal, and it meant “I need you to be a sucker.” If you don't let the dumb/dangerous/termination-worthy thing I just did pass, you won't be Cool.

“Just go with it” is just a more mature version of “be cool,” but it's much more subtle and therefore more pernicious. It means “I need you to ignore the unpleasant aspects of the thing I'm advocating.” In criticism, “just go with it” is a request to ignore a work's faults and turn off your natural instinct for quality. Slate's Dana Stevens if the first person I read who correctly identified this weasel phrase: in her review of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, she was amazed by the number of critics who used the phrase to give Ms. Coppola and her sucky films an inordinate amount of slack.

In any case, here is a movie with a perfectly appropriate name which works on several levels: as yet another meaningless, catch-phrasey RomCom title-- and as a startlingly honest plea to a public who are likely sick to death of the whole genre.

Another Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy, and this time she's paired up with a formerly funny actor? Just Go With It.

The fact this film is yet another remake? The original is Cactus Flower, a 1969 Walter Matthau/Goldie Hawn comedy. Just Go With It.

A film set in these difficult contemporary times about super-wealthy, beautiful people (and in the case of Ms. Decker, crazy beautiful people) living in a world with no hard edges? Where the principals couldn't even be persuaded to make the film anywhere but West Los Angeles and Hawaii? Just Go With It.

Yet another romantic comedy based on deception and lying, where the big complication could be sorted out by a 30-second conversation? Just Go With It.

I suppose we owe Happy Madison and Columbia Pictures a debt of gratitude for being so darn honest. I'd love it if such direct naming became a trend-- but how many movies can you name More Of The Same?

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